Monday, July 28, 2008

The Hungry Ten Thousand

A Children's Homily on Matthew 14:13-21 The Feeding of the Five Thousand
Godly Play style

First we’ll put down a place for the story to happen. This is a wild and a far-away place!

(Spread out the round green circle)

Once there was someone who just loved to feed people.

Sometimes he fed them with words, sometimes he fed them with love, many times he healed them of sicknes, and sometimes he fed them with food!

Now this man was someone who said such wonderful things, and did such amazing things that people followed him wherever he went. His name, as you may have guessed, was Jesus.

(Lift up the Jesus figure)

One time many many people had followed Jesus all the way to a far away, wild place. This was a place with no food in the neighborhood. In fact, this was a place with no neighborhood! But still the people wanted to stay with Jesus.

(Put a few figures on the green circle)

Thwo of Jesus’ frinds were concerned and they said to him,

(Lift up two “friends”)

“Teacher.” (this is what they sometimes called him) There is no food here, this is a far away wild place and it’s getting dark. Don’t you think you should send the people away so they can buy food for themselves and their families? (there were children there too)

The man who loved to feed people said, “They don’t have to go away- YOU give them something to eat.”

His friends were very surprised by this. They said,

(Lift up empty hands, then get loaf of bread and the two fish)

“We have nothing to eat- nothing at all! Jesus looked at them and then they said, “Well, we DO have a little- five loaves and two fish- but that’s only enough for us!”

(Place bread and fish on the green circle)

Jesus said to them, “Bring them here to me.”

(Hold bread and fish and lift them and put them back down on the circle)

Then he told the crowd to sit down in that wild place, and he took all the loaves and both of the fish and he looked up to heaven and he blessed them and broke them, and he gave them all to his friends and his friends gave them to all the people.

(Take basket of goldfish crackers and give three goldfish to each child)

Everyone was able to eat and everybody was all full when they finished.

And the most amazing thing was that after everyone had eaten, still there were twelve baskets full of broken bread.

(Show the basket full of goldfish)

Now on that day, whoever counted the people forgot to count the women and children. So we only know that there were five thousand men.

(Make the sign of the five fingers)

But if they had counted women and children too, there might have been 10,000 people

(Make the sign of ten fingers)

or even more who were all fed all they wanted with more left over on that wonderful day.

Now I wonder what was your favorite part of the story?
I wonder what was the most important art f the story?
I wonder who you were in the story?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What is an AEMCH?

AEMCH (pronounced "EMSH"- almost rhymes with "mensh") is a made-up word that stands for “An Episcopal Ministry to Convalescent Hospitals.” It is a thing of beauty and I am delighted to be their new coordinating chaplain.

AEMCH was started at my old parish, All Souls Episcopal, 27 years ago by the tireless and faithful Rev. Arlinda Cosby and the then rector, Rev. Bill Clancy. The idea was simply to support and encourage parishes to have thriving ministries to their local convalescent hospitals, including holding services there and bringing the Eucharist to individuals. Arlinda began to preach to congregations and to hold training forums for this ministry.

My first impression of AEMCH was when Arlinda came on her yearly visit to preach at All Souls and urge us on to the Jesus-like task of caring for and visiting those elders in the convalescent hospitals who might not otherwise get a visitor at all. Spurred on by her message I started doing this wonderful work and just couldn’t stop.

My favorite place to go was Kayakameena Nursing Home not far from my home in Berkeley. It is not the most upscale of these establishments, but All Souls had a great ministry going (still does!) and it was always fun. The venerable Rev. Bill Fay is always the presider at the once-a-month Sunday afternoon services, preaching the good word and leading the hymns. I began to fill in for him when he went on vacation, and I always marveled at the amount of joy we apparently brought for so little effort.

Marsha Thomas-Cooke, a wonderful jazz vocalist began to come with us to Kaykameena and she always delighted us with her voice and also kept us on key for the hymns.

For a very long time I would visit a woman who used to go to All Souls Church, Helen Stanley. Her moods would run the gamut from cheery to desolate. “I’m going today, Este,” she would tell me, looking worn and exhausted. “This is the day I will see Jesus!”

Then I would see her the next week and she would be calm and cheerful. When I would ask her what I could do for her, or if I could bring her anything, she invariably would say, “Just stay a while and hold my hand.” Helen must have had a strong spiritual effect on her two sons, because one was a rabbi and one was a Catholic priest. For the record, it was the rabbi who kept in touch with her and visited her far more. I was there one time when he was visiting Helen with his wife, and I never saw Helen happier.

When Helen died several years ago I went to her funeral and discovered a different side to Helen than I had ever known. There was a time when she left her two young sons to go to California for some reason I didn’t understand. Maybe they both turned to God for consolation, or maybe her leaving gave them room to seek such different paths. But by time I met her they were reconciled and she was all sweetness, softness and gratitude.

There is something about a person (not always but often) when they reach an advanced age that does seem grace-filled. Sometimes I think that when you are born you have just left the presence of God and when you die you return, so that as a middle aged person you are about as far from God as you are going to get age-wise. So it behooves us to be with children and elders to pick up a little grace by association.

A few weeks ago I went to Kayakameena again and Bill Fay celebrated and preached. The All Souls contingent was 7 strong joined by two Franciscan brothers and myself with my husband and 14 year old daughter. There were 25 residents in attendance at the service and they sang with amazing gusto.

In my most recent visit to another convalescent home, The Redwoods, in Mill Valley, I met with a woman who is 109 years old. She was not ambulatory, but she was sharp and she was funny. In fact in may be her sense of humor that has kept her going for so long. She reminded me (not for the first time) of her age and I said, “Camille- you are doing great!”

“What do you mean I’m doin’ great?” She yelled. “I’m lyin’ here like a wart on a pickle!” We shared the Eucharist and she reflected that she often thought about God when she woke up at night.

“Being spiritual comes in real handy when you’re an old bag like me!” she said.

Ask me about AEMCH when you see me, or better yet, do yourself a favor and come visit with us for the most painless and rewarding Jesus-in-the-world work you’re ever likely to do!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Come Unto Me...

Sunday July 6, 2008
Church of Our Saviour Children’s Homily

We have such a beautiful Gospel passage to read today- one of my favorites of all time. Jesus says something like, “Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. I will lift your burdens.”

What is a burden? A burden is something that is too heavy to carry alone. If it was not too heavy to carry alone, it would not be a burden. It would just be something to carry.

We all have burdens… Maybe you have had a burden sometime. Have you ever picked up a bag of groceries and realized- Whoa! That is too heavy for me! Or maybe you have had a different kind of burden. Maybe you have had a burden in your heart- a great burden of sadness, or of loneliness, or a burden of scaredness. Or maybe you had something in your heart that just did not feel good at all. And these feelings make your heart feel heavy.

Well, I want to tell you that I just got back from a trip that taught me a lot about people who act like Jesus and lift people’s burdens in the world. I went on a trip with Father Richard and Gay Johnson all the way to New York City with our wonderful teenagers, and almost everywhere we went, we saw the lifting of burdens. At the amazing church where we lived, they reached out their arms to the whole city and said “Come to me” and they lifted the burden of hunger from the people who came to get free food from their pantry. They lifted the burden of homelessness from those who slept in their shelter. And for people who could not come to the church to get food because they were to elderly or sick, the church brought food to them! They tutored lots of children and they hosted a synagogue and a Presbyterian church and had dozens of meetings for people struggling with bad habits.

But one of the most touching stories about the lifting of burdens happened right in the middle of our week. We took a boat to a very famous island- Ellis Island. This is an island that long ago, thousands of people would come to, to lift their burdens of not having a safe country to live in. They wanted to live in our country where it was safer and where they would have a chance for a life without the burden of fear and hunger. And as we approached that island we saw the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty held up her torch high as if to say, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” I remembered a poem about Lady Liberty that goes “Give me you tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.” And I thought, “What do you know- here it is almost the 4th of July and Lady Liberty is acting like Jesus! You never know where Jesus is going to turn up!”

Well, during this trip I felt a little burdened myself sometimes. I felt burdened with homesickness and loneliness and tiredness. And what lifted my burden was to see our amazing teenagers helping each other, comforting each other and lifting each other’s burdens. And they not only pitched in to feed the hungry poor, but they also pitched in to feed the hungry us. I had four of the best meals of my life cooked by these wonderful teenagers and then miraculously, the kitchen was beautifully cleaned with no effort whatsoever by any adult!

Well, I thought about the wonderful church we stayed in and all the burdens they lifted, I thought about the beautiful cathedral we stayed in and how they were reaching out to Africa to take care of orphans there and lift their burdens, I thought of the Statue of Liberty and I thought about the amazing teenagers on our pilgrimage. And I thought I had never seen so many people acting like Jesus out in the world.

So if you do have a burden in your heart of loneliness or scaredness or sadness, you might reach out to a brother or sister or your mom or dad or someone else you trust. And you just might feel that burden lifting, because Jesus comes in all shapes and sizes in this world.